A life dedicated to Van cats
VAN – Anadolu Agency
AA PhotoThere’s nothing – earthquakes, family ties, the chance for a summer holiday – that stops Mehmet Bayır from taking care of his cats.
“I’ve dedicated my years, childhood and my youth to cats,” said Bayır, who has been working at Van Yüzüncü Yıl University’s Van Cats Research and Application Center for the past two decades. “Van cats are my second family. Before getting married and having children, I already had a family here. I spend most of my time seven days a week here. I am proud of my job because Van cats are a significant cultural treasure for our country.”
Every day, Bayır cleans the living spaces for the cats while providing them with special care if and when they fall ill.
Van cats, which are distinguished from the other felines with their white hair and yellow and blue eyes as well as their emotional character, have become more famous around the world thanks in part to the work conducted at the center in the eastern province of Van.
Van is visited by thousands of local and foreign tourists every year, and the center is one of the most important tourist attractions in the city.
Bayır, 34, said he started working at the center when he was 14 because of economic difficulties and that it was a very unique feeling to spend all one’s time with Van cats.
Bayır said each of the 120 cats in the center had a different character and emotions, allowing him to distinguish all the cats from each other.
Bayır said he had named some of the cats at the center, with some of them called Pamuk, Mestan and Paşa.
“The number of cats was 30 at first but reached 120. But as the numbers increased and some of the cats I loved died for various reasons, I gave up naming the cats. I lost some of my cats because of disease, during birth or after birth. I had a very beautiful cat years ago, named Pamuk. Now I have given this name to another cat,” he said.
Even during summer, Bayır said did not go on holiday but stayed in the center to closely follow the birth of new kittens.
Bayır admitted, however, that his wife sometimes complained about his attention to the felines. “You dedicated your life to cats, you don’t care about us,” he quoted her as saying.
“But of course, my wife knows very well that I love my job. She doesn’t see it as a problem anymore. We have overcome such problems. Just like me, my children have a passion for cats, too,” he said.
Best way to overcome stress
Bayur said that during the earthquake that occurred in Van in 2011, some units of the city and the university lost their functions and that he continued taking care of the cats in containers after sending his family to safety in another town.
“Sometimes visitors of the center get surprised when they learn that I have been working there for 20 years,” Bayır said.
“The value and importance of Van cats is very different to me. You can train a Van cat just like you train a child at home. They take the color of their one eye from the yellow of the sun and the other from the blue of the Lake Van. Their beauty and emotional character make them very different. Even people who do not have or love cats come here and are touched by the attraction of these Van cats. You leave your stress behind when you come here and pet cats,” he said.
Bayır said he hoped to take care of the cats until his retirement.